General Idea



In 1967, General Idea was founded in Toronto by AA Bronson (b. 1946), Felix Partz (1945-1994), and Jorge Zontal (1944-1994). Over the course of 25 years, they made a significant contribution to postmodern and conceptual art in Canada and beyond. 

The group was both prolific and multi-disciplinary long before it became de rigueur. They worked across a wide range of media including photography, sculpture, painting, mail art, video, installations, multiples, and performance.   

With their interest in parody and appropriation, General Idea addressed a broad range of social (and art-world) issues such as the cult of the artist, mass media, queer identity, and consumerism.

While General Idea is not typically associated with appropriation artists (think Barbara Kruger, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince) much of their output from the late 80's and early 90's is aligned with the Pictures Generation artists and their contemporaries. While these artists used mass-market images, notably advertising, or banal consumer goods, General Idea tinkered with fancy, Queer, or canonical images and blue-chip references. 

Their most iconic work appropriated Robert Indiana’s “LOVE”. General Idea subverted his iconic work to read "AIDS" using the same font and bold color arrangement of red/green/blue as the original. But this was not the only art history hijacking General Idea did.

Using the distinguishable palette of primary red, blue, and green became a mainstay in General Idea’s work, another subtle iteration of a group self-portrait where each member claims a color. 

This work, which consists of 6 hand-painted hearts, is a reinterpretation of Marcel Duchamp’s iconic heart design first realized in 1936

Composed of 6 unique hand-painted hearts, “ Infe©ted Coeur Volant” is an extraordinary example of General Idea’s use of appropriation. Here Duchamp's blue and red palette is replaced with the signature General Idea palette, where the colors not only represent the artists, but the idea of another iconic work falling victim to contagion.

If one is unaware of the Duchamp references, or the idea of contagion and the "Image Virus" the arrangement of four “fluttering” hearts is remarkably pleasing, almost decorative. Like many of General Idea's best works, on the surface, the work can seem playful and reverential, when in fact it is conveying something cynical or sinister.

Conversely one could argue that the appropriated hearts represent something more optimistic, that the repetition of the shapes is signifying love, empathy, brotherhood, or unity. 

General Idea created these hearts in a series of 4. The black on black version is in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Vancouver. The white on white version in the permanent collection of the Museo Ettore Fico (Turin, Italy). The blue on blue version, inspired by Yves Klien, has been held in a private collection in Switzerland since 2009.

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“Infe©ted Coeur Volant” 

Canada, 1994

Acrylic and wax on 6 heart-shaped medium-density fibreboards 

Signed, titled, and dated by the artist on verso

9.25"H 9.25"W (each work)

Provenance: From the collection of Salah J. Bachir, Toronto (Purchased from the artist, 1996)

Exhibition history: Zurich, 1994; Vancouver, 1996

Very good condition

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